The S.W.O.P Ministry
S.W.O.P. is an abbreviation for Stranger, Widow, Orphan and Poor. Even if we read the Bible casually, whether it is the Old or New Testament, we will realise that these people have a special favour of the Lord. Many people don’t see this favour because it is not manifest materially—to claim that they are favoured is ironical to people who equate favour with material endowment. But this is the group of people God identifies with. Any stewardship that doesn’t have a special place for this group of people, has not understood the instructions of his stewardship correctly.
This is the group that if you lend to, you shouldn’t take usury and you shouldn’t refuse to lend them even if you know there are chances they may not pay back.
“If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.”—Exodus 22:25.
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
“Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”—Deuteronomy 15:7-11.
Although the Children of Israel were allowed to take usury from strangers (Deut. 23:20), there were other strangers with special needs that they were not allowed to take advantage of. God instructed them to cater for this special group even if it meant deliberately leaving behind some crops during harvest so that the stranger and the poor may glean.
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.”—Leviticus 19:9-10.
To emphasise the importance of ministering to the SWOP, the instruction to let them glean is repeated in many places.
“When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”—Deuteronomy 24:19-22.
I believe some things are too good to just leave behind, so in a way, the Lord may cause you to forget them so that the widow, the stranger and the orphan may benefit. It is important however, to remember that we don’t have to forget a ‘sheaf’ for the underprivileged to benefit. The scripture above also implies that there are things we can do deliberately for the underprivileged to benefit. Boaz, for example, instructed his servants to deliberately leave some grains behind so that Ruth the Moabitess could glean (Ruth 2:15-16). Again, we don’t need to have been strangers somewhere for us to identify with or understand the plight of the strangers.
SWOP are the people God would borrow from you to help.
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”—Proverbs 19:17.
Because of being an impatient generation and overtaken by appetite for materialism, we expect all our payments in this life. The truth however, is that God uses His discretion to decide when, where and how to pay us back for what we lent Him. This means if God had promised to pay us back, our departure from this life doesn’t invalidate the promise. The promises of God don’t expire with time. He has eternity to make good of His promises.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth....
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”—Heb. 11:13, 39.
The Bible exhorts us to keep our treasures out of reach of the earthly elements that would destroy them, or thieves that would steal them.